SECOND FOREWORD: This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do — not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.
One notable exception to the bullshit rule is The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. There is little or no detectable bullshit in that book. (Of course, its short; at eighty-five pages it's much shorter than this one.) I'll tell you right now that every aspiring writer should read The Elements of Style. Rule 17 in the chapter titled Principles of Composition is "Omit needless words." I will try to do that here.
- The adverb is not your friend. (Page 117)
- The best form of dialogue attribution is "said", as in "he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said". (Page 120)
- If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I am aware of, no shortcut. (Page 139)
- If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. (Page 142)
- The real importance of reading... (Page 145; please buy On Writing to read more.)
- On Writing was reviewed in Your Opinion by co-editor Padmini Nandy Mazumder, Class of 2011.